February 25, 2013

You Can Always Hand Them Back

Roger Hall, despite being one of the best playwrights in the country,  is perhaps best known in Wellington for his annual pantomimes at Circa. For You Can Always Hand Them Back he has teamed up with Peter Skellern on music and lyrics. Being a fan of his pantomimes myself I don't think I've ever seen anything so serious from him before - and do remember this is meant to be a comedy.

The show enjoyed such rave reviews at its sell-out last set of performances that I was confident I would like it too. I did, to a degree. The first half of the show was great but I almost wished I had ducked out at half time. The second half of the show was more serious, so much so that they weren't able to pull it back up to a comedy no matter how much they tried. I was disappointed that the ending felt forced, a desperate attempt to end on a happy note.

Kath (Lynda Milligan) and Maurice (George Henare) are proud grandparents who tell the story of their grandparenting to the audience with some help from Wellington musician Tom McLeod on piano. The three have great chemistry and harmonise well, particularly in the Christmas song. George seemed to talk/sing quite a bit but his voice was overshadowed by the power of Lynda's. My compliments to the set team, although there were a few hiccups with projecting backgrounds and photos it didn't remove from the storyline.

I'm not quite sure I agree with the promotional tag line "no grandparent will want to miss it, and no would-be grandparent should" but then I'm not a grandparent, am I? What did the grandparents out there think of the show?

23 February-30 March
Times: Tues/Wed 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm, Sunday 4pm
Tickets: $25 - $46

For more information and to book tickets go here

February 24, 2013

Fringe: Alexander Sparrow - Narcissistic Diva

Everyone has to start somewhere and Alexander Sparrow has started in his home town. It is refreshing to watch a comedian who lacks the cynicism that pervades the stage today; this may be due to his youth and his lack of life experience. But, after 45 minutes of watching him parade, strut and gyrate, I came away thinking he might be someone to watch out for.

Sitting down and writing this I had to think hard about why I want to watch him again. Some of his jokes were a little lame, ‘I haven’t eaten since I last ate’ and his obvious nervousness was distracting, but he charmed me! I think he also charmed the rest of his audience. He didn’t have to swear to get a laugh and he picked on those we love to pick on – not the Aussies, but the toothless folks of Upper Hutt. What he said wasn’t unique but his style made it fun. He interacted with ‘Sam’ in the front row within the first two minutes and made us feel part of his show. This is always a great technique for a stand up comedian and got the rest of the front row squirming in case he turned on them next. Alexander did go on to include more audience members but it would have been great to see him ‘pick on’ more than those who could touch him from their seats. The Fringe Bar is a small place and he would have been able to hear those in the back row, let alone just three rows back.

The two highlights for me were his adlibbing and the finale. As mentioned earlier, his nervousness was obvious but I think with more exposure to the stage, he should relax into his style. It was entertaining to see him interact with the odd comments audience members called out. He had quick answers and really seemed to enjoy himself. I’m hoping this is something he will build on, as it is a difficult skill to fake but he seems to have it. As for the finale, you have to see it to believe it. He had already gyrated all over the microphone stand showing us how to really let a woman know what you want with body language only. I hope too many guys don’t take his advice! Then he went on to demonstrate to us what women wear, or don’t wear, to clubs. The audience saw a lot more of Alexander’s body than we thought we had paid for. But the best was yet to come. Once more the poor microphone stand was attacked as Alexander broke out his Beyonce moves and had us all in fits. A grand way for a self confessed diva to leave his audience.

Needless to say, Alexander is a brave young man. The audience on Friday night sat back and weren’t overly vocal in their appreciation of the diva’s antics. This was a pity and his inexperience made him dry mouthed and some audience support would have gone a long way. If you go to see him this season or in the future, join in with his antics, it makes the show so much more fun and brings Alexander to life.

I will be keeping an eye out for Alexander Sparrow. It looks as if he has written something else featured in this year’s fringe festival – perhaps that will be my next night out.

February 23, 2013

Fringe: The BeeGees/ABBA tribute show

There was an interesting mix of people at The Grand on Friday night to listen to a tribute to the BeeGees and ABBA. I was surprised to see as many in their 20s and 30s as were in their 50s and 60s. Some of the younger ones even dressed in sequins, knee high boots and afros. Just goes to show that these icons of the disco era put out some very memorable tunes.

The first hour was dedicated to the BeeGees, led by a bewigged “Barry” a hatted “Maurice” on keyboard and a talented “Robin” on guitar. For the first 15 minutes there was a lot of toe taping and head nodding as the group warmed up with a selection of slower songs, then along came Tragedy. This was the cue for the dancing to begin, and it didn’t stop for the rest of the night.

While our “Barry” wasn’t the master playing at the Mission this weekend, the harmonies were there. As a tribute band they did well enough to evoke memories of the original and the audience enjoyed dusting off those disco moves. They were however only a warm up act for the second half tribute to ABBA.

“Barry and Robin” morphed into “Benny and Bjorn” and were joined by “Agnetha and Ani-Frid”. Dressed in sequinned pantsuits the girls had all the right moves and Ani-Frid was a standout taking the vocal lead. They had their audience dancing and singing along to many favourites. “Agnetha and Ani-Frid” joined the crowd on the dance floor for a couple of numbers and at one stage some impromptu line dancing even broke out.

It was a fun night which ended on a high with ABBA belting out Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen to a lively and engaged audience.

February 21, 2013

Fringe: Jealousy and Greed - The Story of Alistair Macbeth

A few thoughts on 45 minutes of experimentation.

The Fringe is time for amateurs and for those raw on the stage to test the waters of the stage and their own talents for this medium.

Jealousy and Greed had promise in its content, a watered down version of Macbeth. It may have stepped up to a higher grade of entertainment if the characters had been introduced with a little more depth at the outset and if the actors and timing of their appearances had been better managed. Quieter shoes on stage and actors off stage may have meant a more engaged audience

Most of these actors appeared to be happy to give us their lines but forgot about the body language necessary to impart their story. It was unfortunate that a lot of the lines were quiet or rushed. Good luck to them in the future and maybe this was a good place to start but there is plenty of hard work ahead if they are to continue.

Venue:Whitireia Theatre, Vivian Street
Shows: 20-23 February, 8pm
Tickets: $20

Fringe: Home

The full title of this play is Home: The hilarious comedy about how I nearly killed myself. A play about how I nearly died but didn't then learned a lot about life afterward. Which is a bit of a mouthful and as the actress said gives it all away.

Home is deeply personal story based on the life of writer and actress Freya Desmarais. She held a receiving line as friends and family entered the theatre. Her strength in allowing those closest to her to see the hardest time in her life is astounding. To borrow from Killing Me Softly (which will always be the Fugees version in my head) there she was, this young girl, stranger to my eyes, acting my life with her words. Her portrayal of living through a period of mental illness was spot on.

I recommend this show to anyone who has ever gone through a breakup, had a shit day, thought life was over, has or knows anyone who has mental illness. When you consider the high rates of mental illness in this country I think that encompasses most of New Zealand.

Hilarious and painful this is a show everyone should see. Forget the best of The Fringe this might just be the best piece of theatre I've ever seen. If there is any justice in the world (or recognition for true talent) I'll be able to say I saw Freya perform back when.

Venue: BATS theatre
Performances: 20-23 February, 9.30pm (bonus! she'll be at the Auckland Fringe 4-6 March)
Tickets: $16

February 19, 2013

Fringe: 27

Daddy O's is a fantastic venue, and suited the vibe of the gig perfectly. It had a great energy and the bar was full for the performance. Unfortunately I can not say the same for the service. We waited 20 minutes to be served a simple can of Coke and they didn't have the wine I ordered even though it was on the menu.

Once the performance started, within a few minutes it was clear that the vocalist had a fantastic voice. Not only was her stage presence captivating, but each unique song rendition was powerfully performed, leaving the audience impressed with her ability. Before each song, Karen read a background history or quotes about the artist she was about to cover. This was often knowledgeable, interesting and powerful. But some of the quotes seemed odd, out of place and unnecessary, confusing the message she was attempting to convey.

Although Karen looked fantastic and clearly made an effort to look the part, the rest of the band were casually dressed and often seemed disinterested, contradicting her energy. There was only a handful of songs that the band connected with. This made Karen look less like the lead, and more like the only permanent band member.

I was impressed with was the unique twist and remastering of each song. The band created a full reconstruction in a timeless way, bringing back a haze of a memory , but leaving you to enjoy the new life they managed to create. I would gladly listen to these remakes time and time again, although there were a few songs of which seemed clumsily arranged towards the middle.

Karen had a strong energy, power and passion in her performance, and was an absolute pleasure to listen to. She suited the genre of music and it was clear she was in her element on stage. The show was darker than I expected, with a sad note on the life of the musicians. Rather than a celebration of them, it was a tribute.

Overall, I believe the performance was cleverly arranged, keeping the audience interested with ease. Karen was a natural on stage, but although the other band members were talented musicians, I would have liked  them in an outfit like the lead, and to have shown more energy throughout the performance.

Karen and her Fellow Sinners, Daddy O's, 8pm, Sunday 17th Feb

February 17, 2013

Fringe: Trubie and Abby Are Just a Bit Worried

Truby and Abby were a high energy duo, who managed to keep a crowd of 30-40 people in the audience entertained and engaged throughout the evening. They had a loose script prepared, interacting with the audience throughout to give a personal spin off of relating to the crowd. They did a great job of making the entire audience feel involved in all of the story segways, approaching approx. 6-8 audience members over the evening.

The duo interacted well, their energy bounced against one another making them a great team. Trubie was a fantastic host and entertainer, but when acting and role playing was involved Abby was on top form, creating a strong dynamic.

There were no props or microphones, yet this certainly did not affect their performance. They did a fantastic job of including the audience in the show without intimidating them. This is often hard to do without creating a negative heckling effect which would reduce the amount of audience members wanting to be involved.

I found that occasionally the skits dragged out a bit too long, and my mind began to wander as they went off on odd tangents, but they were able to re-engage me once new segments were introduced. To sum up the couple on stage I would say the performance was a cute, fun, quirky show with a lot of laughs and although an amature performance, I would be more than happy to see them perform again in the future.

Meow, 7pm, Saturday 16th Feb

February 7, 2013

Black Olive

Last night was our 41st, yes 41st wedding anniversary so we went out for dinner.  As it was a Tuesday night and our usual place closed, I asked around in the office and the Black Olive was recommended. Good choice.

The restaurant was light and pleasant with comfortable seating.  The food and d├ęcor were of Turkish origin, enough to enjoy without being overwhelmed by its taste and culture.  The menu both food and wine gave a good range of choices at reasonable prices.  When the drinks were delivered whilst we contemplated the options for dinner, they were generous.  The meal was great and again generous proportions and tasty!

Overall, a very pleasant experience at a reasonable cost in an atmosphere quite appropriate for the occasion.  Black Olive is a restaurant we will recommend – 4 ½ stars!

Visit them at 91 Jackson Street, Petone or on their website

February 4, 2013

Weight Loss: Dietitian

As I've mentioned previously I have been seeing a dietitian. The great thing about this is that not only do I get to see her over a six month period but I don't have to pay a thing! I don't know if this service is available to everyone or whether it depends on which PHO (Primary Health Organisation) your doctor/you belong to. A friend of mine was referred to a dietitian a few years back by her doctor but only the first session was free. If you think this is something that you would find useful then ask your doctor (1) whether they can refer you and (2) if there are any associated costs involved.

I haven't been eating as well as I should for quite some time. There is so much conflicting information out there that I wanted to talk to a professional. I pay more attention in an individual session than I would to pages from the internet.

My first session we talked about the importance of breakfast. We've all heard that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" but do we really pay that any attention? Here's how it works: breakfast is break-fast. Your body has had no fuel since you had dinner, it is fasting, it is starving. Consider if you finished dinner at 7pm and woke up at 7am, that is a whole 12 hours (half a day) that your body has had nothing to run on. I'm not suggesting eating a lot before bed (that creates its own problems) just that you have something when you get up in the morning. Eating when your body needs it means that you are less likely to eat more later in the day - because your body is no longer starving and trying to convince you to eat everything in sight. All of this is information I'm sure you've heard before (I had!).

We also looked at the choices I made for breakfast and how to make them better for me eg. switching to grain or brown toast, having only two weetbix, increasing the amount of porridge (half a cup of uncooked oats).

At my next session we talked about the make up of a meal. I don't mean making a meal pretty, I mean what your meal is comprised of. This is what a meal should look like. In New Zealand the trend is for more protein and more carbs than vegetables even though we have the option to get them fresh or grow them ourselves. What I found really interesting is that potatoes, corn, parsnip and banana are treated as carbohydrates in this diagram because that is how our body treats them. Protein isn't just fish and meat either; it also includes dairy, eggs and legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils).

Serving sizes are something else that we seem to have got all wrong.Our bodies only require 1-2 servings of protein a day and that serving should be the size of your palm. That steak you had for dinner last night was probably 3 or 4 servings, yikes! A serving of carbs is about a fist - one cup of rice, one slice of bread. At least with fruit and veges we can eat to our hearts content, well almost. As you know the government recommends 5+ a day and my dietitian says you should always have one more serving of vegetables than you do fruit. So to make up your 5 if you have 2 pieces of fruit you need to have 3 servings of vegetables.

Does this seem like a lot to process? It does for me too. Just think of the image of your plate and try to find ways to make your plate resemble the ideal meal, bit by bit.

In the next couple of weeks I will be starting a new weight loss programme called "Dance your Bootie Off." There are still spaces available if dancing and a diet plan sound like something you would be interested in. As part of that course I will be meeting with a nutritionist. I have no idea what the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is but hopefully I'll find out!

Do you know what the difference is between a dietitian and a nutritionist? (that sounds like the start of a bad joke!) I just finished posting when I found this, so dietitian is more qualified by the sounds of things. Do you eat breakfast? How do you plan to adjust your meals to match the healthy plate?

Keep reading and you'll see less of me next time!

Weight: 93.5 (+0.1)

Special thanks to: Ian Tilley PhotographyKiwi Pole Fitness